At its core, group leadership involves an individual using their skills to uplift the group. Group leaders emerge when they are willing to listen to the needs of group members, and empathize, learn, empower, and adapt. Central to any team is being unified by a common purpose or the achievement of shared goals. This sudden outbreak has rendered many of our “common goals”, such as performances, service projects, fundraisers and awareness events, among others, unachievable. In a season that keeps us physically apart, can group leadership bring us back together?
Here are a few ways in which we can “virtually” reconnect by reframing our “shared goals” to a different, and perhaps more important, common purpose.
Shifting Our Platforms
Let’s rethink the way we connect. While our much-needed practice of physical distancing has required many of our groups, clubs, teams, and organizations to cancel face-to-face meetings, we certainly do not need to socially isolate ourselves. None of us know when it will be safe to return to in-person contact. Now is a great time to utilize virtual meeting software.
Consider options such as group FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Zoom, or even Instagram and Snapchat to keep meetings afloat. This allows for group members to retain a sense of normalcy. It also allows you to see the faces and hear the voices of people outside of those you isolate with! However, despite all of these virtual accommodations we can make, some of our original goals are simply unachievable. With this in mind, consider reframing your “shared goals” towards alternatives that will allow your group or team to remain socially connected!
Taking Contactless Action
Although it may sound a bit counterintuitive, leadership can certainly be contactless during these trying times that keep us apart. Be creative, and keep an eye out for needs or opportunities that may have arisen in your community. Perhaps your organization creates a virtual fundraiser to donate to local food banks, shelters, or to help purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical professionals. Maybe your club can create a new service project where members create DIY masks out of fabric to donate to the community. Offer to pick up groceries for elderly or high-risk neighbors. Remember, it is often the seemingly small actions that can make the biggest impact!
Consider planning a contactless food or supply drive to donate to a local food bank or shelter. This is especially important as COVID-19 prevents so many people from working, and the need for these basic supplies has risen dramatically. Although our ability to volunteer in person must be put on pause, there are still plenty of ways to make a physically-distanced difference in your community!
Building Support Systems
I’m certain I do not need to explain the physical, mental, and emotional toll COVID-19 has taken on us all. Many of us, myself included, are grieving cancelations on top of managing fears of the unknown. Now is a great time to adjust our perceptions of leadership from constant productivity and service towards establishing emotional support systems. Remember to create space for your group members to bond over shared grief.
Encourage meetings with your club, team, or organization that are purely aimed at support. Check in on those you care about. Encourage them to take care of themselves mentally and emotionally. Create a platform for which group members have a way to express their feelings. It may be just what someone needs to navigate their emotions. Be empathetic and open minded. COVID-19 is affecting us all different ways. When someone is grieving, there is no right thing to say – you just need to show up and listen.
Lastly, it can be hard to find joy these days. Service or action of any kind may not be possible at this moment, and that is okay. If the best decision for your club or organization is to put your service efforts on hold until further notice, embrace that decision.
Consider making one of your group’s “common goals” to simply seek fun and entertainment together. Create a group chat dedicated to fun where everyone can send ideas and uplifting messages to make each other smile! Send a song or movie suggestion. Have a virtual group picnic where everyone eats a snack or meal as if you were going out to eat. Exercise together! Find a fitness or yoga workout to follow together on FaceTime. Create a virtual book club and meet weekly on Zoom. Try out “Netflix Party”, and get invested in that show that’s been on your list. Decide on a recipe to cook or bake together over Zoom and compare results. Craft. Dance. Play. The possibilities are endless.
In our current climate, uncertainty is a common experience. We don’t know when the next time we can return to work, play with others, perform in front of a live audience, volunteer in person, or even safely leave our homes. If you play a role of any kind in a group, you have the opportunity to create some certainty for members group by building in routine and fostering a sense of belonging. Whether it’s helping guide a digital transition to service, creating a support system that emphasizes self-care, or brainstorming fun group activities, there are countless ways to help make life in isolation become a little less painful. And perhaps, this global crisis is an opportunity for us to broaden our perspectives of what it means to lead. If 2020 is the year of less doing and more meaningful connection over shared values and collective experience, we’ll take it! 🙂
About the author: Chelsea Edwards is a 2017 HOBY Virginia and 2018 World Leadership Congress (WLC) alum. Chelsea actively volunteers with HOBY as a Team Alumni member in her home state of Virginia and as a Junior Staff member at the WLC. Chelsea is a current student at the University of Virginia studying Global Public Health, Spanish, and Politics. Like many other students have experienced, Chelsea’s spring semester was cut short, and she’s now quarantining with her family.